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Try To Keep Going But It's Not That Simple

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Something is wrong. Louis doesn't know what's wrong, but he knows that something is definitely wrong.

First of all, Liam's acting weird. Truth be told, he's been acting weird all day. He made Harry leave a while ago and he was running around the house being super weird, but now it's different.

What's going on? Louis meows, reaching out to paw at Liam's leg. Liam's standing at the door, peeking out between the curtains over the window.

"Quit it, Lou," Liam says as he shakes his leg, dislodging Louis from his spot.

What's going on? Louis meows again, catching Niall's attention. He trots over and sits next to Louis, tilting his head to the side as he looks up at Liam.

What's he doing?

I dunno. He's been at the door for ages.

Niall yawns. Where's Harry? I'm hungry.

I dunno. Louis paws at Liam's ankle again. What are you doing? Where's Harry?

Liam doesn't acknowledge him this time, he's too busy pulling his phone out of his pocket. He holds it up to his ear and taps his foot impatiently. Niall's drawn to the sound and motion of Liam's foot. Louis watches as Niall crouches down, wiggling his rear before he pounces and wraps himself around Liam's foot completely.

"Oww!" Liam looks down and shakes Niall off his foot. "Niall, no! You--" He pauses and sighs hurriedly. "Harry, where are you? It's been over an hour, you can't possibly still be at the market. Come home, or call me, or… something. I'm worried."

Louis' ears flatten. Niall meows softly.

What's going on?

I dunno, Louis meows back. But it's not good.

*

It's dark now. Liam's still pacing back and forth through the living room, keeping his eyes fixed on the door any time he's not checking his phone. It's making all three of the cats nervous, though only two of them have stuck around.

Zayn went into hiding over an hour ago. Louis and Niall are curled up on the couch together, watching Liam pace as their tails twitch.

Where's Harry? Niall rubs his head against Louis' neck. I miss Harry.

Me too. Louis starts licking Niall's head to comfort him, but they're both distracted when Liam's phone rings.

"Anne?" Liam nearly drops his phone in his hurry to put it up to his ear. "Anne, have you heard from-- what? He's where? I don't…" Liam covers his mouth, stifling a sob.

Louis' ears perk up.

Lou? Niall curls tighter into Louis' side. What's wrong with Liam?

"Is he…" Liam takes a deep breath and sniffles loudly. "Is he alright?"

I don't know, Louis meows as he dislodges himself from under Niall and jumps off of the couch. He rubs up against Liam's leg, which he never does, but if it's going to get something out of Liam then he's willing to take this extreme measure.

"Surgery?" Liam makes a sound that Louis has never heard him make, and it makes his fur prickle. "What did the doctor say? Did he—"

Liam Liam Liam Liam Liam, Louis rubs his head against Liam's ankle, what's going on??

"Lou, stop it," he mutters, moving his legs so quickly that Louis flops down onto his front. "Anne, what hospital did you say? I'm coming now."

Excuse me, Liam, Louis sits back on his haunches and stares angrily in Liam's direction, but it's no use. Liam isn't looking at him.

"I'll be there as soon as I can, alright?" Liam jabs at his phone before sliding it back into his pocket. He disappears into the kitchen and soon there's a rustling sound that the cats are all too familiar with.

Food!! Niall leaps down from the couch, hot on Louis' tail as they both run into the kitchen.

"That should last you a while," Liam mumbles to himself as he picks up the water dish and cleans it haphazardly in the sink, re-filling it with cool water before he sets it down nearby where Louis and Niall are stuffing their faces.

Liam? Louis' ears perk up at the jingle of keys and he turns just in time to see Liam heading for the door. Liam, where are you going?

Louis trots over to the door, and just before he's about to close it, Liam sees him.

"It's alright, Louis," he says, although the look in his eyes makes Louis think that it's certainly not alright. "I'll be back soon."

Liam, Louis meows loudly. What about Harry?

"Be good, kitties," Liam calls. The door shuts.

What about Harry? Louis meows again as he goes over to the door and starts scratching at it. It's no use, of course, Liam's long gone.

Lou? What's going on?

I dunno. Louis goes back over to the food bowls and stares at his own, half-full. Niall's is already empty and he's licking his chops, eyeing Zayn's bowl with hungry eyes.

D'you think Zayn would mind? Niall sniffs at Zayn's bowl and paws at the side of it.

Leave it, Louis swipes at Niall's head half-heartedly. Niall mewls softly, but backs off. He retreats back to the living room, leaving Louis in the kitchen all by himself.

He looks back at the door and howls.

Harry, where are you?

*

Liam hates hospitals. He's hated hospitals for as long as he can remember, mostly because they're a large fixture in his earliest memories. Being at a hospital never meant anything good, even when it wasn't related to his own health.

Now he's racing to get to the hospital as if his own life depends on it.

He bursts through the doors of A&E and finds Gemma sitting alone with red-rimmed eyes and a worried look on her face. She tries to smile at him when he reaches her, but her bottom lip wobbles and soon she's sobbing against his chest.

It's a futile effort, trying to get any information out of her. He has to wait for Anne to come back. The only thing he can decipher through Gemma's blubbering is that Anne's in with the doctor now, getting an update on Harry's surgery.

He hugs Gemma a little tighter and tries not to cry. This wasn't supposed to happen. Not today, of all days.

Anne appears around ten minutes after Liam's arrival, and she looks just as weary as Liam feels. He keeps a tight hold on Gemma's hand as he stands up to receive Anne's hug, giving her his chair despite her soft protest.

"What did the doctor say?" Liam asks once Anne's settled.

"He…" She takes a deep breath and tries to smile through her tears. "He's still in surgery and they said it's going well, but there's a lot more damage than they originally thought and I don't--" Anne's voice catches. Gemma takes Anne's hand in hers, the other still clutching Liam's tightly.

Liam sniffs hard, blinking away his tears rather than wiping them with his free hand.

"Did they…" Liam tries to keep his own voice from breaking, but it's hard. "How did this happen?"

"The paramedics," Gemma starts shakily, "they… they said--"

"He was crossing the street," Anne takes over when Gemma's voice goes, "and a lorry just…"

She doesn't finish, and Liam doesn't ask her to. Several minutes pass before she speaks again, and this time it's only to say that they were told to expect the police to come by in the next few hours with more details.

"That's good, right?" Liam asks, still trying to keep his tears in his eyes where they belong. "They'll have talked to witnesses and everything, and caught the driver who…"

It happens in a split second. One minute Liam's the pillar of strength and the next, he's crumbled into a blubbering mess.

"It's my fault," he says in-between sobs as both Gemma and Anne try to comfort him. "I sent him out, it's my fault!"

"No, sweetheart," Anne says as she pulls Liam into her arms. "Don't say that, it's absolutely not your fault."

"You're not the arsehole who hit him," Gemma says coldly as she squeezes Liam's hand.

"I was… I was gonna…" Liam chokes on a sob and covers his mouth with his hand.

"What? What is it, Liam?" Anne asks gently.

"Nothing," Liam says thickly. "It's not important."

Anne pats his cheek gently, keeping him close as he continues to cry into her shoulder. Gemma curls into Anne's other side, and the three of them stay quiet despite the tears streaming down their faces.

Stuck inside his own head, Liam can't help but blame himself. He shuts his eyes tightly and hopes, wishes, even prays that Harry is going to make it out of this alive.

*

It feels like ages since Liam left. Harry hasn't come home either, and it's making Louis and the others crazy. Niall's been pacing back and forth at the door on and off since Liam left. Zayn still hasn't come out of hiding, even though he must be hungry by now.

Louis just wants to know what's going on. He wants to know why Harry didn't come home and why Liam got so worried, and why Liam ran off so quick. It can't be good, but Louis doesn't wanna think about that.

He just wants his humans back.

Zayn? Louis meows. He's at the top of the stairs, already having looked in all of Zayn's normal hiding spaces downstairs.

There's no answer, of course. Louis didn't expect one. He knows well enough by now that when Zayn's hiding he won't answer to anyone at all. But this feels different than all the other times he's hidden before, and Louis wants to know why.

He starts in Harry and Liam's bedroom first, meowing and meowing as he pokes around all of the corners and possible places Zayn could be curled up. Louis half expected to find him under the bed, but there's nothing under there except their stash of stolen bottle caps and several dust bunnies.

Louis gets mildly distracted by one particular bottle cap, but after ten minutes he remembers his mission and he comes out from under the bed.

What're you doing? Niall cocks his head to the side and gently swipes at the bit of dust in Louis' whiskers.

Nothing. Louis pushes Niall's paw away and shakes the dust out of his whiskers. Looking for Zayn.

He's not under there? Niall crouches down but doesn't crawl under the bed. Where is he?

I don't know. Louis' tail swishes from side to side. Obviously.

We have to find him, Niall mewls. It's soft and sad. Louis leans forward and bumps his head against Niall's, rubbing his face against Niall's ear.

We'll find him. It'll be okay.

It only takes a little coaxing to get Niall to follow, and Louis finds that it’s helpful to have a second pair of eyes as they wander into the next room in search of Zayn. He doesn’t respond to their calls, but Louis hopes they’re getting closer.

They have to be. They’re running out of places to look.

Zayn? Niall howls. Come out, please.

Everything’s going to be okay. Louis paws at the closet door in the spare room. It rattles a little, but Louis can’t manage to open it. He tries a couple more times, tries to wedge his paw into the crack between the doors and push one of them open, but it’s no use.

Niall comes over and tries to help, but even together they still can’t get the doors to open.

He can’t be in there, can he? Niall licks his paw.

If we can’t open it together, I doubt he could do it alone. Louis crouches down and puts his nose to the carpet, sniffing out any trace of Zayn he can possibly find. It’s not easy, considering the carpet is a mix of all three of them and Harry and Liam, plus a number of other smells Louis can’t identify.

Zayn? Niall howls again. Zayn, please.

Go away.

Louis perks up, immediately turning his head towards the big chest of drawers in the corner of the room. It doesn’t sit flush against the wall, and the space left is just big enough for the cats to squeeze behind.

Zayn? Louis pokes his head into the space, but he doesn’t see him anywhere. Zayn, c’mon. I know you’re here somewhere.

Leave me be, Lou.

Where is he? Niall paws at the dresser, his claws scratching lightly against the wood.

I’m hiding, Zayn hisses. You two should follow my lead and do the same, if you know what’s good for you.

What’re you talking about? Louis pulls his head back and shakes it, rubbing his paw against his ear before trotting around to the front of the dresser. You’re being ridiculous, Zayn. Come out.

No.

Come out!

No!

Please? Niall meows pitifully. There’s food downstairs. You need food.

Niall’s right. Louis paws at the dresser. You need to eat.

I'm staying right here. Go away.

Louis tries scratching at the front of the drawer, but even if he could get his nails in he's not big enough to pull the drawer out by himself. If he got Niall to help him they might be able to do it together, but Zayn would inevitably find somewhere else to hide and Louis isn't sure if they'd be able to find him a second time.

Giving up on the frontal assault, Louis goes back around the side of the dresser. Niall's not there anymore. In fact, he's not in the room at all. Louis huffs and his tail starts twitching.

Zayn.

Silence.

Zayn, Louis hisses.

What?

Niall's gone. Is he in there with you?

No. He's probably hiding. You should, too.

Louis swipes at the dresser in frustration. He wishes he could pull Zayn out of the stupid dresser and sit on him until he admits he's being an idiot. It's hard enough keeping Niall calm without Zayn making it worse. Louis doesn't know what's going on but he's mostly positive that whatever Zayn thinks is going on isn't what's actually going on.

I wish Harry would come home.

There's a clatter from downstairs and Louis' ears perk up. He doesn't bother saying anything else to Zayn before he darts out of the room to investigate. He finds Niall amidst a pile of food in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room.

What're you doing? Louis asks as Niall pauses in his sweeping.

I spilled. Niall pushes some more food together with his paw. I didn't mean to. I was just trying to bring it to Zayn.

Oh, Niall. Louis moves closer and rubs his face against the side of Niall's head. Were you pushing the bowl with your paws?

No. Niall avoids looking at Louis, turning his face down towards the spilled food. I was holding the bowl with my mouth. I thought I could walk easier like that.

What were you going to do about the stairs?

Niall fusses with a couple bits of food. Dunno. Didn't think that far ahead.

Louis licks the side of Niall's head in a comforting way, nuzzling his face into Niall's fur.

Zayn's gonna be okay. We're all gonna be okay.

There's a key in the door. Louis' ears perk up at the sound, and so does Niall. They both scurry into the kitchen just in time to see the door open, but it's not Liam or Harry.

It's Gemma.

"Hi kitties!" she says, crouching down as best she can as she steps through the door. Louis and Niall are pawing at her legs, her knees, anywhere they can touch as they both meow incessantly at her.

Zayn! Louis meows. You have to get Zayn!

He won't come out! Niall howls. Gemma, please!!

"I know, I know," Gemma says as she takes turns petting Louis and Niall. "You miss your dads."

Gemma's voice falters for a moment and she presses her hand to her mouth. Louis stands on his hind legs and stretches as far as he can to reach her face with his paw.

You're gonna help, right? Louis meows. You have to help.

"Oh, Lou." Gemma scoops Louis up into her arms and cuddles him close, reaching down for Niall a moment later and cradling them both to her chest.

I'm getting squished. Niall starts to wriggle out of Gemma's grip, but she puts him back down before he can fall.

Gemma, Louis meows again and rubs his head against Gemma's chin. She keeps holding him as she goes into the kitchen, Niall at her heels.

"Kitties, what have you done?" she says upon seeing the mess of food and the overturned bowl.

I didn't mean to, Louis tell her.

Niall was trying to help Zayn. You need to get him out.

"Down you go," Gemma murmurs as she puts Louis down and opens up the kitchen closet to grab the broom.

No, that's Zayn's food! Niall tries to get between the broom and the spilled food, but Gemma gently pushes him aside with the broom.

Gemma will get him new food. And she'll get him out of the dresser.

But try as they might, neither of them can get Gemma to go upstairs. They can barely get her to leave the kitchen. She sweeps up the food and washes out the bowl before filling it up again and setting it back down on the floor.

Then she fills the other two bowls and gives them fresh water. And then she heads for the door.

Where are you going? Louis howls. You can't leave!

"I know, I know," Gemma says with her hand on the doorknob. "Liam will be home soon." She takes a deep breath and tries to smile down at Louis and Niall.

She just got here. Why is she leaving? Niall starts to tremble.

You have to get Zayn!

"Bye kitties," Gemma whispers, and the door shuts a moment later.

She left. Niall rubs up against Louis. Why didn't she stay?

She'll come back. Louis tries not to start trembling as well, but it doesn't work. Someone will.

*

When Liam wakes up, he realizes several things in quick succession. The first being his entire body is sore. His neck alone feels like it's about to snap when he shifts in the uncomfortable hospital waiting room chair. The second is that he's still in the hospital, only he's got no idea what time it is or how long he's actually been there. The third is that Anne was the one who woke him up and it's because there's a surgeon standing in front of them.

He tries to listen as best he can, but he's groggy and half of what the surgeon is saying is big medical terms that Liam doesn't understand. His veterinary training only goes so far when it comes to knowing medical jargon. What he gathers before the surgeon leaves them alone is that Harry's out of surgery and he's stable, but he hasn't woken up yet.

Liam doesn't even have a moment to try and speak before Anne's hugging him tightly and sobbing in relief against his shoulder.

"He's going to be alright," she wails. Liam puts his arms around her, comforting her while his brain tries to catch up to the onslaught of information.

Liam's rendered silent again when a nurse comes up to the two of them and asks if they'd like to see Harry. They follow her down several hallways and through multiple sets of doors before they enter the ICU, and even then they can't actually go into the room Harry's in. The nurse explains why, something about the spread of bacteria and more susceptible patients, but it doesn't matter.

Seeing Harry through a window is hard enough. Liam doesn't know if he'd be able to get any closer. There's about a dozen different tubes and wires hooked up to him and a bunch of important-looking machines, and Liam feels his head start to spin.

He stumbles a little as he drops to his knees, and Anne's at his side in an instant.

"Liam, Liam it's alright. Breathe."

"I'm--" Liam tries to speak, but his heart is beating so fast he feels like he can't even breathe. Flashes of memories from his time spent in hospitals as a small child take over his mind, and he feels like crying.

The nurse who brought them to the ICU kneels down to double-check that Liam's alright, but he waves her off. Together with Anne, they help Liam get back on his feet and a couple minutes later they've been brought a set of chairs.

"I'm sorry," Liam says once he's calmed down. "It's just…"

"I know," Anne says as she squeezes his hand. She hasn't let go of him since Liam woke up. "It's scary, seeing him like this."

"But, he's going to be okay. The doctor… he said…" Liam's voice trails off and he shakes his head, pressing his free hand to his forehead in frustration. "I can't even remember."

Anne pats Liam's hand. "He said that the surgery went well, but there were some complications and they had to put him into a medically-induced coma."

She pauses, taking a deep breath and Liam leans into her. Harry's her son, her baby. He can't even imagine what this must be like for her right now.

"It should only be necessary for a few days," Anne continues. "He's going to be alright."

"Yeah," Liam says softly. "He's going to be alright."

They sit in silence for a few minutes, and then Anne takes another deep breath.

"I'm going to call Gemma, she'll want to know he's out of surgery."

"Do you want me to--" Liam starts, but Anne shakes her head.

"No, it's alright." She smiles at him. "I'll be right back."

Anne gets up from her seat and goes to find a quiet place to make her phone call, leaving Liam by himself outside of Harry's room. He turns around in his chair and looks through the window, and there he is. Still asleep (for all intents and purposes) and still hooked up to a bunch of machines that absolutely terrify Liam.

He feels his chest getting tight again and he forces himself to look away. Instead he pulls his own phone out of his pocket and opens up his photos. He's got hundreds of him and Harry, and even more of Harry with the kitties. He scrolls through them in the hopes that they'll make him feel better, but his heart starts feeling heavier the further back he goes, and soon he feels tears streaming down his cheeks.

He doesn't even notice Anne's come back until she's pulling him into a hug and then he's crying into her shoulder. She gently rocks him back and forth like all mums do when they're trying to comfort someone.

It takes a while, but eventually Liam calms down and the tears stop. Anne doesn't let go and he doesn't try to pull away.

"I was going to propose," he whispers.

"What?" Anne asks.

"I…" Liam swallows hard. "I sent him to the market so I could get the house ready. I was going to propose." He sniffles as his bottom lip starts to shake, like he's going to start crying again. "This is all my fault."

"Oh, Liam," Anne says as she hugs him tightly. "This isn't your fault. Don't think that even for a second."

"But--"

"It's not your fault," Anne says sternly. "Harry's going to be okay, and when he's all better you're going to propose, and then the two of you will live happily ever after."

Liam laughs a little. "Promise?"

"Promise." Anne kisses Liam's cheek and he breathes a small sigh of relief.

"Thank you," he says softly.

"You're welcome. Now, why don't you go home and get some rest? Gemma's coming by later after work, and--"

"Can I stay?" Liam interrupts. "I just…" He carefully looks over their shoulders at Harry and takes a deep breath. "I want to stay."

Anne smiles at him. "Of course."

They hardly leave their chairs for the rest of the day. They go down to the hospital cafeteria in turns, just in case Harry wakes up while they're gone. Several nurses tell them that they'd be happy to watch over him if they want to go together, but both Anne and Liam refuse. They don't want to leave Harry alone.

Gemma comes late in the evening and she's actually astonished to still find Liam at the hospital. Or rather, she's astonished to discover he hasn't left the hospital since arriving there the previous night.

"I'm taking Mum home for some much-needed rest," she says. "You should go home too, Liam."

"No, I can't, I don't want to--"

"Harry's being looked after by dozen doctors and nurses," she says. "He's taken care of, Liam. There's nothing more you can do."

"But--"

"He wouldn't want you to torture yourself like this," Gemma goes on, her voice gentler than before.

"I don't want to leave," Liam says shakily.

"I know you don't." Gemma rubs his back consolingly. "But what about the kitties? They need you, too."

"How are they?" Liam asks. "Did you see them all?"

"Louis and Niall were all over me," Gemma says with a chuckle. "I didn't see Zayn, but I rarely do, so I didn't think much of it."

Liam sighs in relief and puts his head in his hands.

"Go home, Liam," Gemma whispers. "We'll call if anything happens, I promise."

"Alright," Liam agrees after a little while. "I'll go home."

*

Louis?

Yes, Niall?

I miss Liam. And Harry.

Louis lets Niall burrow closer to him and he gently noses at Niall's ear.

So do I.

I miss Zayn, too.

Louis' ear twitches. Zayn's being stupid.

He's scared. I'm scared, too.

Don't be scared. Everything's going to be okay.

How do you know?

I know everything, haven't you learned that by now?

Where's Liam? Why didn't Harry come back?

Before Louis can make up an answer, they both hear keys in the door. They jump down from the couch and run into the kitchen just in time to see Liam coming through the door. They meow and paw and jump all over him, getting between his legs as he tries to walk through the kitchen.

"Hi guys, yes, I know," Liam says as he gives up, sitting down on the kitchen floor and letting Louis and Niall crawl all over him. "I've been gone for ages."

Where's Harry? Louis paws at Liam's face.

We missed you, Niall meows as he rubs his head against Liam's hand.

"I know, I know," Liam says. His voice sounds funny and Louis stares at his face, still pawing at his cheek when Liam starts to cry.

No, stop that. Louis tries to paw at the tears. Harry doesn't like it when you cry. He won't come back if you're crying.

Make him stop!!

I'm trying!!

Liam suddenly scoops both of them up and cradles them close to his chest, sort of like Gemma did the day before but this time they don't feel as squished.

What's wrong with Liam? Niall tries to paw at Liam's tears too, meowing when his paw comes away wet.

"I'm sorry," Liam says through his tears. "I'm sorry I've been gone and I'm sorry Harry's not here, it's all my fault!"

Make him stop, Niall whines. I don't like this.

Liam, Louis meows. Liam, we need help with Zayn. He won't come out. But now you're back and you can tell him everything's going to be okay.

Liam sniffs loudly and looks around. "Where's Zayn?"

I just told you, Louis tries to swipe at Liam's nose, but he's jostled when Liam gets to his feet.

"Zayn?" he calls.

He's upstairs!

"Zayn?" Liam calls again as he leaves the kitchen, gently putting Louis and Niall back down on the floor.

He's not gonna find him, Niall meows worriedly.

Then we have to help. Louis paws at Liam's legs and then starts running towards the stairs. When it's clear that Liam doesn't understand, Louis does it again.

He's run back and forth twice before Niall joins in, and they do it another three times before Liam actually follows.

"Where's Zayn?" he asks them as he goes up the stairs after them.

In here, Louis stands in the doorway of the spare room, meowing loudly until Liam goes inside.

Niall goes over to the dresser and paws at the bottom drawer until Liam pulls it out. Zayn's not in it.

Go away, he meows.

"Zayn?" Liam pulls the dresser out completely and crouches down, seeing that Zayn was behind the dresser all along. "What're you doing in there?"

Zayn doesn't move. Liam gets back to his feet, telling Louis and Niall to watch him as he quickly runs out of the room. He's back within a minute with a blanket, which he uses to reach inside the dresser and gently pulls Zayn out of his hiding space.

"There you are," Liam says quietly as he bundles Zayn up in the blanket, much to his dismay.

Stop it, Zayn meows weakly. He's tired and he's so hungry that he can't put up any sort of fight.

"Have you been back there this whole time?" Liam asks as he scratches Zayn behind the ears and presses a kiss to the top of his head. "Poor kitty."

He needs food!!! Niall rubs against Liam's ankle.

"C'mon, kitties. Let's get Zayn something to eat."

It's a struggle, getting Zayn to eat. Any time Liam tries to put him down he tries to wriggle out of the blanket and make for an escape. He's still scared that this is the end of life as he knows it, that Liam coming back doesn't mean things are going back to normal.

It's okay, Zayn. Liam's back! Niall tries to comfort him, but Zayn doesn't want to hear it.

"Zayn, stop," Liam bundles him up in the blanket again. "C'mon, now. You need to eat."

Can't you see that Liam cares about you? Louis hisses. He's not going to hurt you or leave you, so stop being an idiot and eat!!

Zayn looks at Louis with contempt. You don't know what it's like. This is all you've ever known.

I know enough to know that you're being stupid. Harry and Liam would never let anything happen to us.

You don't know that.

Yes I do! They're our humans! They love us and we love them!

"Zayn, please," Liam says. His voice is sounding funny again.

Eat, Louis hisses. You're making Liam sad. Is that what you want?

Zayn turns his head and looks up at Liam, who's looking back down at him with sad, tired eyes.

No, Zayn meows softly. He eats a few bits of food out of Liam's hand, and then upon realizing how hungry he actually is and how good the food tastes, he starts eating more.

"There we go," Liam whispers. "Good boy, Zayn."

See? Niall meows as he tries to climb up onto Liam's knee to get closer to Zayn. Louis is right. Liam loves us.

Eventually Liam unravels Zayn from the blanket, once he's certain that Zayn isn't going to try and make a run for it again. He takes turns petting each of the cats, giving them more attention than they've had in the past two days.

Liam, Louis meows as he pokes his paw against Liam's nose. You can't sleep here.

Liam's on the floor in the kitchen, his eyes half-open with Niall nestled in the crook of one arm and Zayn curled up by his legs. He groans softly and tries to bat Louis' paw away.

Leave him be, Zayn meows. He's tired.

He can't sleep here. Humans don't sleep on floors.

"Okay, okay," Liam murmurs as he struggles to get up. "C'mon, kitties."

He shuffles upstairs slowly. Niall's right behind him, along with Louis and Zayn (after a bit of nudging). Liam collapses onto the bed and falls asleep within seconds, before the kitties can even make themselves comfortable on the bed next to him.

See? Louis headbutts Zayn. Everything's back to normal.

Almost, Niall meows softly.

Harry's still not here. Zayn's tail twitches. Is he coming back?

Louis curls up between Niall and Zayn and covers his head with his paw. I hope so.

*

Liam sleeps for a whole day. The cats are impressed, to say the least. They've never seen a human sleep for that long. They're even a bit jealous, really, given that they sleep most of the time. But after a while, they get a bit bored of having Liam be asleep.

He's their human, after all. He's supposed to dote on them and give them food. He can't do that while he's asleep.

Wake him up, Niall meows.

Let him sleep, Zayn meows in return. He needs it.

We need food, Louis meows. If he keeps sleeping, we'll all starve.

You're so dramatic, Zayn huffs.

Says the one who wouldn't come out of the dresser.

They're all startled when Liam's phone starts to ring. They're even more startled when Liam wakes up and awkwardly fumbles to get his phone out of his pocket. He blearily says hello before he's fully woken up, at which point the kitties resume their previous spots of comfort around him.

"He's what?" Liam says.

Who's he talking to? Niall's tail twitches.

Dunno.

I thought you knew everything.

Says who? Zayn swipes at Louis.

Shut up.

"That's… that's amazing, I'll be right--"

Liam pauses again and looks at the kitties gathered around him. Louis knows what he's thinking without Liam saying a word.

He's leaving again.

What? Niall cries. Why?

"Hang on, Gem. Could you, uhh, could you Facetime me?"

What's he doing? Zayn reluctantly shifts as Liam sits upright in the bed, jostling the covers.

"No, I know he can't talk. It's important. Could you?"

Liam pulls the phone away from his ear and Louis slowly advances towards him, though he's scared off a bit when Liam's phone goes off again.

"It's okay, it's okay," Liam says as he answers it. Louis peers around to see Gemma on the screen, and he's confused.

Why's she in there?

"I don't understand--" Gemma starts, but Liam interrupts her.

"Could you turn the camera to Harry?" he asks.

She does, and Louis meows loudly when he sees Harry.

Harry!!

What? Both Niall and Zayn perk up.

What's he doing in there? Get him out, Liam!!

Louis starts pawing at Liam's phone and he laughs. He tucks Louis under his arm and keeps his paws away from the screen, for fear he might accidentally hang up.

"C'mere, Niall. Zayn."

He shows the screen to all of them, and each one tries to paw and nose at Harry. They don't understand.

"He's okay," Liam tells them. "He can't come home yet, but he's okay."

Fix him, Louis meows. Bring him home.

*

A few weeks later

Where's Harry? Niall's been pacing back and forth in front of the door since Liam left.

He's coming, Louis tells him.

Why isn't he here yet? Liam said he was coming home today.

He'll be here. Be patient. Zayn's watching from one of the chairs at the kitchen table, feigning indifference but his tail's incessant twitching gives him away. He wants Harry and Liam home, too.

He's been gone forever, Niall whines.

Louis isn't sure whether he's talking about Harry or Liam at this point, but he shares the sentiment all the same. Liam has been gone for awfully long, but they haven't had Harry for ages.

Not to mention they've all got these stupid things around their necks that Liam promised they'd only have to wear for a little while. Louis has been trying to get his off since Liam put it on, but he still remains unsuccessful.

They're here! They're here! Niall howls when the door opens.

"Back, Niall, c'mon, get away from the door," Liam says.

"Oh, leave him. He's excited and-- what's that?"

Harry, Louis purrs as he runs to meet them at the door as well. Zayn jumps down from his chair and follows.

"That's… let's get you inside. Then I'll explain."

"Liam, is that a tie? Did you put little bow ties on the kitties?"

"They wanted to look special for your triumphant return."

Harry! Harry! Louis and the others are all crowding around Liam and Harry's feet, making it very difficult but not impossible for Liam to help Harry inside and to the couch.

"Oh, I've missed you all so much," Harry says, trying to bend down to pet all of them while Liam closes the door.

"Harry, stop that. You heard what the doctor said, no--"

"Oh, stop. I'm fine, Liam. He said I was fine."

"You need to rest," Liam says firmly.

Harry, Louis meows. Harry, I missed you. We all missed you.

"Okay, then get me to the couch so I can rest," Harry replies with a cheeky grin on his face.

The moment he sits down all three cats jump up onto the couch and climb onto Harry's lap.

"These are so cute," he says as he looks at the little ties on all of them. "How did you manage that?"

The cats do an excellent job of distracting him, each one demanding pets and taking turns nuzzling Harry's face, so that Liam can kneel down in front of him.

"Liam," Harry says once he realizes what's going on. "What're you doing?"

"Something I wanted to do weeks ago," Liam replies.

What's going on? Niall meows.

Liam's being weird, who cares. Louis rubs his face against Harry's chest. Harry's home.

"Liam," Harry says, his voice going all funny. It catches Louis' attention.

Liam, don't you dare make Harry cry.

"Harry, will you marry me?"

Louis is jostled off of Harry's lap along with Niall and Zayn as Harry launches himself at Liam, kissing every inch of Liam's face despite Liam's protests that he's supposed to be resting. They're both knocked to the floor, Harry lying on top of Liam as he kisses him.

"You can't propose to me and expect me not to kiss you!" Harry says.

Why are they on the floor? Niall meows, looking down on them from the couch.

"Is that a yes?" Liam asks.

"Of course it's a yes," Harry replies as he kisses Liam again.

Who knows, Louis huffs. Humans are so weird.